Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mistborn: A True Original Fantasy Novel

The fantasy genre is one of my favorites to read. Starting with Lord of The Rings and moving on down, I like to get my hands on as many different types of fantasy books as I can. However, the problem I have found is that it is getting more and more difficult to find what I consider to be a true original fantasy. So many of the books today are a cheap spin-off of Tolkien - complete with elves, dwarves, orcs, wizards, magic, and a super-powerful-impossible-to-destroy villain who always happens to be defeated. After reading four of five of them, you can almost predict the rest of the plot after the first chapter of each new book. Is anyone else is as sick of these as I am?

I grabbed up Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson on the recommendation of a friend, and couldn't be happier that I did. It was everything that so much of today's fantasy isn't: original. The book introduces a female protagonist at the outset of the story, a peasant by the name of Vin. The story then follows her and her subsequent involvement in a coup to overthrow the all powerful deity-dictator. While my review won't go through the entire story in detail (I hate spoilers when I read reviews - I just want to know if the book will be worth my time), I hope to hit on a few elements of what makes this books so great.

One of the first things that is great about the book is the setting. The story takes place in a bleak world where ash falls like rain from the sky. The population is heavily divided into a rich aristocracy and peasant class with not much middle ground. A detailed geography and complex political, cultural, and even religious systems make the backdrop for the story deep and believable.

The new fantasy creatures and races are unique. Some of these include the shape-shifting kandra who assume the form of any given person by consuming their remains, massive violent koloss, and Steel Inquisitors (a kind of super-powerful Gestapo). The main characters are unique and memorable, and most are developed enough to keep you interested as you read further and further into the story. And as you continue through the series, you see just how different the antagonist is from most stories.

The most unique and memorable element of the story are the magic systems that Sanderson creates. The first is the more heavily used in the story, the system of Allomancy. Essentially Allomancy is art of which certain individuals are able to ingest specific metals and use their properties to enhance or give them abilities. The other, Feruchemy, is the art by which individuals can store certain properties within a metal object to reserve for a time of need. Both of these magic systems are well developed with believable rules and limitations (and there is even a third form, but for the sake of spoiling the story, I won't discuss it here).

Sanderson has done a real work of art here with his Mistborn Trilogy. Since releasing this series, Sanderson has written other fantasy works including Warbreaker, The Way of Kings, and completing Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series. If you are looking for a break from the typical Middle Earth fantasy knock off, I would strongly recommend picking up a copy. I can't promise that you will love the story the way I did, but I can promise an original, well written quick pace fantasy novel that should leave you wanting more.

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